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This is an exciting time to be in the cloud-storage business. Industry trends suggest that even though devices have larger storage capacities (growing 25% per year), people’s data and files are growing significantly faster (around 50% per year).
This is especially true for mobile devices. Windows is used by a billion people across the world and with SkyDrive, our goal is to design cloud storage at the same scale so people can have their files with them on any of their devices.
With Windows 8.1, we’ve taken a big step towards that goal. SkyDrive is deeply integrated into Windows. Opening and saving files to SkyDrive is now as easy as saving to your hard drive, but with SkyDrive, your files are also available to you on your phone, tablet, desktop PC, and via SkyDrive.com. In addition to the basics, we’ve come up with some creative and unique ways to address the needs of the increasing number of people who have tons of files but relatively small device hard drives.
Because people’s data storage needs will continue to grow faster than storage capacity on their mobile devices, we asked ourselves how we could provide you with access to all your SkyDrive files without actually downloading them, using precious local disk space and Internet bandwidth. Our answer is what we often refer to as “placeholder files.” Placeholder files look and feel like normal folders and files. You can tap or click a folder and see all the folders and files inside it. You can tap or click a file and it will open, you can edit it and close it. You can move, delete, copy, or rename placeholder files just like you would any folder or file. But we only download the full file when you access it. What we have in its place is a placeholder file containing a thumbnail image along with some basic properties and file content. This means that the placeholder file is significantly smaller in size that the file in SkyDrive, but when you need to use it, we’ll download the full file for you.
For example, in the image below, I have a Pictures folder in SkyDrive that’s 5.6GB in size but it’s only taking up 185MB on the local disk.
For photos, flipping through lots of pictures in one go is a common scenario. We wanted to give you fast scrolling of photos without taking up a lot of local disk space. So we’re doing something even more special there. When you flip through photos, we download large thumbnail images instead of the actual files. And we pre-fetch thumbnails to enable fast scrolling. It’s only when you want to edit a photo that we download the full file to the local disk.
Combined, placeholder files and smart thumbnails allow you to see and interact with your entire SkyDrive without taking up much local disk space and only using your Internet connection when needed. Early data in the weeks since Windows 8.1 Preview was released suggests that this architecture is delivering on the goals we set out with and SkyDrive files are taking up less than 5% of the local disk space that they would have taken in the old system.
So to put a fine point on that, using placeholder files, someone who has 100GB of files in SkyDrive that have been built up across many devices and years, can now have all of those files available on their new Windows 8.1 device and will be using less than 5GB of storage for all those files on their local hard drive.
Providing access to all your files on devices of every size and shape helps ensure that you don’t have to make tough decisions about what subset of your SkyDrive files you want available, and provides complete cloud access that isn’t offered by anyone else.
One of the biggest investments we’ve made for Windows 8.1 is a seamless experience across connectivity states. So, if you’re on the go and want the documents you’re working on to be there when you lose Internet connectivity, and you want all your edits to make their way back up to SkyDrive when you get connected, we do just that without any need for manual configuration and setup.
With the SkyDrive app, you’ll be able to mark any folders or files you want for offline access. Edits on this device or another device will be synchronized so that you’re always working with the latest file. This is an explicit, easy-to-understand way to have guaranteed offline access to the files you most care about.
When you’re offline, it’s easy to tell which files are available for offline access.
In order to make things even more convenient, we always mark files for offline access if you’ve opened or edited them on this device before. We do that because most people tend to open the same files they recently opened, but the files they open often vary across different devices – so we remember those files and make this unique to the device you’re using. And of course, you can also choose to mark any individual file or folder for offline access – and of course, if you’re working on a device with a lot of local storage, you can choose to have your entire SkyDrive available for offline access.
Any Windows Store app can use the Windows file picker to let you open, edit, and save any kind of file. In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is built into the file picker – so every Windows Store app can save files directly to SkyDrive without any extra work. And the files will quietly get uploaded in the background so you don’t have to wait around. For example, if someone shares pictures with you in an email, you can save them to SkyDrive from the Mail app.
And you don’t have to worry if you happen to be offline when you save the file. We’ll just save it locally and upload it to SkyDrive when you do get connected.
If you were working in a desktop app, you get the same functionality using the Windows common file dialog – opening and saving to SkyDrive is as easy as saving to your PC.
And of course, SkyDrive shows up in the desktop File Explorer for all Windows 8.1 users (as long as you’ve signed in to Windows with a Microsoft account). You can drag folders and files from your PC or any other attached device to SkyDrive. If you turn off your device before everything gets uploaded, we’ll just resume uploading the next time you’re online.
Many people use search to quickly access their files. So we’ve made search work just as you’d expect – SkyDrive files show up in search results just like your local files. For example, if you have a document in your SkyDrive, we extract a few lines of text from the document and provide that to the search indexer on your device so that it can return search results that are more relevant to you. It goes without saying that search works across your entire SkyDrive (including placeholder files). In the example below, “Alyssa’s birthday bash” and “Mom’s birthday cake” are both documents in SkyDrive that exist as placeholder files on the local device and are searchable whether you’re online or offline.
In the weeks since Build 2013, we’ve seen great adoption of SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 Preview. As we mentioned, we’re excited to see that people are getting access to their huge collections of files while only taking up local storage that’s less than 5% of their total file size. And in just the first week after Build, we saw over 3TB of data uploaded to SkyDrive per day from those devices running Windows 8.1 Preview. We’ve also gotten feedback on what else you’d like to see in the product, and we’re working hard to address that feedback in the upcoming milestones. We look forward to hearing more of your suggestions and comments here on the blog and in the Windows 8.1 Preview forum.
- Mona Akmal, Group Program Manager, SkyDrive apps
Editor’s note, 9/27/2013: What we refer to as “placeholder files” in this blog post are now called “smart files”.
I'm what you'd call a "Power User" and even I'm confused at how this all works. I've got about 25 Gb of photos stored on Skydrive, and they are all stored locally on my C drive, taking valuable space. From this article, it appears that it should be possible to clear this space using "placeholder files", which sounds great!
Unfortunately, in a typical Microsoft fashion, none of it works like it should. How do I tell a folder in Explorer to be only available Online? I can't. I have to go to the Skydrive app, and tell them there. But even though all my files are downloaded, Skydrive apparently doesn't believe so and doesn't show the option to "Make available Online", instead asking me to "Make available Offline". I have to open each folder, select all the files, and THEN I can make them available online only.
As is typical, it's a great idea but with poor testing and poor execution.
Since I am able to keep SkyDrive on something other than my (SSD) boot drive in Win 8, I would have to defer an update to Win 8.1 if that functionality goes away, or stop using SkyDrive until it is available. This is a feature that really should be on the front burner. SkyDrive on the SSD is not just of no value, it makes the product unusable on any of my systems. It's nice that the team is upgrading SkyDrive, but dropping important features should not be part of that.
Try this cloud storage. It's called "Copy". It gives 20 gb.
Actually, there are many kinds of cloud storage like dropbox, skydrive, or cloud, and this one.
Where is the Andoird Photo Sync? I use DropBox almost exclusively for this single feature on my Android phone. Can't live without it. I would even pay to upgrade my SkyDrive account if I could do this. Just saying...
when will i be able to upload a folder and not just a file?
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I like these enhancements to skydrive, but I would like to make a few suggestions:
1) I like the sync status indicator that appears as an overlay on the desktop file/folder icons in the existing skydrive (e.g. the green ticks). If I understand correctly, these will not be present in the new version. Please consider retaining them. They could serve a helpful at-a-glance indicators to identify whether a file/folder has already been marked for offline access. In fact, I think I will find it very irritating not to have at-a-glance access to such information.
2) One thing I like a lot about Dropbox is that it saves multiple versions of any file. Being able to revert back to old versions that I have saved over or deleted has saved me many times. I know skydrive saves multiple versions of MS Office documents, but if you don’t add this support for generic file types, it will be unlikely that I will switch from Dropbox as my main cloud storage service.
3) I would like to use Skydrive for storing my personal photos. Having access to my entire photo collection from any device, no matter how limited the storage capacity of that device, is very appealing. However, I am frustrated by the relatively weak photo management options in Skydrive (as well as Windows Photo Gallery). The lack of photo albums feature is particularly frustrating. By photo album I mean a sort of virtual folder feature that would allow a single photo to exist in multiple albums (virtual folders) whilst only existing in one physical folder (traditional folder). Apple, Google, and Adobe have had such a feature for many years in their photo management products and I don’t understand why Microsoft neglects this. Please add to Skydrive and Windows photo gallery!
Just to clarify my previous post. Given that the current keystrokes for navigating the lists in the SkyDrive app ( arrow keys, home and end) just move the focus, rather than move focus and select, then the first character or characters of the name should also just move the focus.
Is there a reason why in the lists of folders and lists of files in the SkyDrive app, you cannot use the first character of characters of the name to quickly select an item. In nearly all lists in windows you can do this. For keyboard users, for example blind users, this is very, very useful.
Good idea from SkyDrive Team, now we shall feed more comfortable for using SkyDrive online
Thanks, really great improvements, but please consider these recommendations if applicable:
// In addition to left side navigation bar, It would be great if a drive named SkyDrive wich has features like local drives in This PC view of file Explorer showing free and used space and ...., then more benefits, right?
// The SkyDrive windows 8 app shows only This PC as a connected device!!! While users like me have installed desktop app on other PCs fetching or sync to skydrive.live.com and all connected PCs are there for accessing online PC, (A windows live mesh functionality or current skydrive.live.com great feature), Why This SkyDrive app doesn't show other online and connected PCs with desktop app installed on via a unique Microsoft account?
// Do we need install desktop app for fetching files in windows 8.1?? I think it shouldn't be required while can be as an option in properties of SkyDrive folder in win 8.1.
// I want to be able to view my files on my Surface RT (Entire disk) like a regular pc with desktop SkyDrive app installed on, I mean Why Modern UI app doesn't support fetching files???
What about my own server to instal Skydrive services for me ?
Love the features, but that's the most important sentence to me: " and of course, if you’re working on a device with a lot of local storage, you can choose to have your entire SkyDrive available for offline access."
And, by the way, i hope the Skydrive App and the Skydrive Desktop App share the same folder for offline files?!
@Titan, you can continue to use SkyDrive the way you already use it by going to the SkyDrive App settings and marking your entire SkyDrive to be available for offline access.
@Juan, pauneu, danielgr, canoas, MaryBranscombe, thanks for your feedback - these are all great suggestions that the team is looking into. No other information to share at this point.
@chriswong, when you upgrade from 8 to 8.1, your SkyDrive desktop app will be updated - the SkyDrive node under Favorites will be replaced by the SkyDrive node in at the highest level in Explorer - you'll be able to do the same things (drag and drop, copy/move/delete) with your SkyDrive files in this location as you were able to do before. If you were syncing specific folders in 8, those will continue to sync after you upgrade.
@James, we download quite a few lines of text (around 2K worth of text) so it should work for most documents. Also, if the document is available for offline access (i.e. is fully downloaded on the device), the entire content is indexed and available for search. There's no online search that works directly against the service at this point.
+several million on needing the ability to choose folders/files shared with my by other SkyDrive users to sync; without that you have to plan ahead for collaboration
What can a user really do with only 7GB of storage?? Skydrive used to offer 25GB of free storage, and even 25GB is barely enough!!
@James Chaldecott - unfortunately, the online SkyDrive service doesn't bother with indexing photo metadata either, so you still won't be able to search on photo metadata...
1) I like the concept of files being saved to Skydrive in Windows 8.1, but if I make Skydrive my default place to save all my files does that mean I lose the ability to back up a physical copy of my files to an external HDD using either File History or a simple Copy/Paste? I would be very wary of not having such an external HDD backup of my files.
2) A related question; if you make your entire Skydrive available for offline access on a particular PC, does that enable you to back up a physical copy of my files to an external HDD using File History or a simple Copy/Paste as per my question 1?
Is there a way to select individual files which will NOT be synced in the new version? I have a program on multiple machines which keeps the machine-specific licenses in the same folder as data. These need to be left alone. The old Synctoy has this capability, as does Goodsync and the new Bittorent Sync.
+1 on @danielgr
3) Ability to mount (get offline access) folders other people share with us (this is a must, otherwise, skydrive is just an useless cloud "downloader".
Just another "Mesh" fan, but now a DropBox and Google Drive user :-(
OK. These seem like welcome improvements, but I've got a couple of questions:
1) You say:
"For example, if you have a document in your SkyDrive, we extract a few lines of text from the document and provide that to the search indexer on your device so that it can return search results that are more relevant to you."
That sounds like if I search for a word/phrase that occurs in the first few lines of a document I have on SkyDrive then it WILL appear in the Win 8.1 search results, but if the text only occurs later in the document then it will NOT.
If I am online, then does the search get sent to the SkyDrive servers for more complete results?
If this was available then it could help with the image metadata issue that Geoff Coupe mentions. This is just the text mode equivalent issue.
2) I hope this SkyDrive isn't the justification for gutting all the online features from the Photos app. It's currently almost useless in the 8.1 preview. (See answers.microsoft.com/.../24ae3087-e627-4813-a887-49333a0d12dc)
@Mona Akmal - thanks for acknowledging that you don't include metadata in the placeholder files. Perhaps you should rewrite the claim made in your post as:
"Many people use search to quickly access their files. So we’ve made search work just not as you’d expect – SkyDrive files won’t always show up in search results unlike your local files."
Search in both the SkyDrive service itself and in the Windows 8.1 integration definitely could do with improvement. See gcoupe.wordpress.com/.../microsofts-skydrive-room-for-improvement
We really need a indicator saying if there are pending tasks. Like the one Office guys (perhaps SkyDrive guys) did in Office 2013 with SkyDrive.
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I just want to +1 one what danielgr was saying.
Being able to change the local sync folder is not just a preposterous poweruser feature, but essential in an SSD environment. I have a 120-gig-SSD as my C: drive and a storage spaces array of 3x 2-TB-drives. Guess where I would like to put my 45-gig SkyDrive folder..
I comprehend (and somehow appreciate) if simplifying things is the path Microsoft chose, but only targeting the average user is not only a pain in the ... for powerusers, but can have a unpleasant backlash in the long run.
What has always worked well, is having simple defaults, but letting advanced users dive into the (hidden) preferences and change those defaults.
I really hope MS will get this some day.
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This is excellent, now all we need is more than 100GB of paid storage. This is the only thing preventing me from switching completely from Dropbox. Any word on when additional storage options will be available?
Still unclear as to how this works with an upgrade. Do we have to uninstall the SkyDrive desktop app from Win 8.0 first, before upgrading to Win 8.1? And/or delete our locally sync'd files from the desktop app, only to re-download them using the Metro 8.1 app? Are they also still saved to the same folder - C:\Users\username\SkyDrive ...?
I know you've heard this before, and hope that you'd thought it up as well, so take it as simple +1 from a longtime FolderShare/LiveSync/LiveMesh/Skydrive lover.
Three important things missing, the first two hopefully will be there on time for RTM:
1) Ability to change the Skydrive folder location (critical on Desktops with SSDs)
2) Individual & global real time offline sync indicator (tray for desktop, live-tile for metro)
3) Ability to mount (get offline access) folders other people share with us
PS: And btw, I you need to be more carefull with international users. Now that the documents folder seems to be special, it is a mess that it keeps constantly creating a new one whenever you change from one PC to another running a different language.
The number one thing I'd like to see is sorting. WAY better sorting. In the Windows store app. I want the same sorting like I can do in the desktop. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to find a picture among thousands and I can't sort by newest modified date.
7 GB storage is not enough, i love minimum 50 GB = ;)
Can I turn this feature off? I use SkyDrive (and I love it) to sync folders between computers and to have a redundant copy on your servers. I see it as an easy way to have multiple full & redundant copies of my data. If SkyDrive begins only syncing file previews then I completely lose having redundancy with the exception of your servers. There needs to be a feature to force full download.
@gary_dexter, for the first case you mention, the file gets downloaded when you edit it and remains there (as Available Offline) unless you explicitly mark it as Online-only. For the second case, any files you drag and drop or copy from this device to SkyDrive will be marked for offline access on that device so the complete files are on your local hard disk. They will turn into placeholders only if you explicitly change them to be Online-only.
@Jorge, Arknu, thanks for the feedback. We completely understand that this is a pain point for our most enthusiastic users and hope to address it in the future. No specifics about time line at the moment.
@ Geoff, you're correct - we are not searching on photo metadata right now. Thanks for the feedback.
This is all very nice - but all we really want to know is whether the local folder can be changed. I HATE programs randomly deciding to put everything on my C: drive. I move everything that can be moved to the D drive (a process which is way too difficult as it is!). Don't make it more difficult!
So we have a file that is not available for offline viewing (i.e. only the placeholder file is there). We open the file, edit it, then save it again, overwriting the previous file. Is this file then saved again as a placeholder file, or is the whole file downloaded as we have edited it and opened it on the machine?
Also if we drag and drop a file to the SkyDrive folder, or, save a new file in the SkyDrive folder, are these available for offline access on the local machine, or saved as "placeholders" until we choose otherwise?
It seems to me that it would be useful to have photo metadata included in the downloaded placeholder information so that we could search on e.g. Descriptive Tags.
That doesn't seem to be happening at the moment. If I try a search, it will only find metadata contained in photos that have already be downloaded locally.
When we can expect to be able to select the local folder?